An Associate of Applied Science in Echocardiography and a Bachelor of Science in Imaging Sciences with a specialization in echocardiography are available to students who wish to pursue careers in echocardiography.
Both programs introduce the science of sonographic imaging and medical applications of an electrocardiograph (EKG) machine. The coursework combines lecture with lab components and hands-on training. The associate degree program typically takes three years and some courses are available online.
While admissions standards vary by school, standard requirements for these programs include background checks and CPR certification.
Associate of Applied Science in Echocardiography
Echocardiography is a discipline that utilizes electrocardiograph machines and sonographic imaging to assess the overall heart health of a patient. Electrocardiographers work closely with cardiologists and vascular surgeons in various health care settings. While enrolled in an associate's degree program, a student will receive basic training in how to properly administer an electrocardiograph exam. Coursework covers the positioning of electrodes on the patient's body as well as interpretation of an EKG reading. Students also learn about ultrasound technology, which is used by electrocardiographers to take images of a patient's heart. Sonographic images are helpful in assessing heart damage, heart disease and pumping capacity. Instruction is also provided on conducting a general sonographic image examination of a patient.
Community colleges that offer associate's degree programs in echocardiography require that applicants hold a high school diploma. Additionally, applicants must successfully pass a background check, have health insurance, be CPR certified and be immunized for a number of diseases. Some schools require that applicants also take a Psychological Service Bureau (PSB) exam. Some AAS in echocardiography degree programs require an initial year of general study. This first year is devoted to completion of general education courses; the second and third years of enrollment focus on courses in echocardiography. Some possible classes include:
- Elementary physics
- Concepts of cardiovascular examination
- Ultrasound and doppler physics
- Pathology and echocardiographic evaluation
- Applications of vascular technology
- Anatomy and physiology
Bachelor of Science in Imaging Sciences
The discipline of imaging sciences encompasses many different fields, such as diagnostic medical sonography, radiographic science and echocardiography. Students enrolled in a bachelor's degree program in imaging sciences take echocardiography as a specialized area of study. Training is provided on how to properly conduct an electrocardiograph exam as well as sonographic imaging of the heart and related blood vessels. Students learn how to combine these two procedures to assess the overall heart health of a patient. Anomalies in EKG printouts and sonographic images are covered as well as advanced echo technology methods, such as the use of a Holter monitor and stress testing.
Freshman applicants must meet the minimum education requirements for high school subject areas. In addition, scores must be submitted for either the SAT or ACT exam. Some universities may request letters of recommendation, an interview and a professional writing sample. Many applicants transfer from 2-year programs and have the proper educational requirements needed to enroll in a bachelor's degree program. Classes cover all aspects of echocardiography. Some courses also require completion of a laboratory component, through which students gain hands-on experience. Possible classes include:
- Echocardiography instrument quality assurance
- Doppler physics of echocardiography
- Patient care techniques
- Congenital heart disease echo evaluation
- Neonatal care skills
- 2-D echocardiograms
Possible Career Options
Other career outcomes exist for graduates of an AAS program in echocardiography beyond EKG technician. Some possible careers include:
- Cardiac sonographer
- EKG technician
- EKG marketing specialist
Job Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of cardiovascular and vascular technologists and technicians (which encompasses the field of echocardiography) is projected to grow 24% for the years 2014 through 2024. The BLS reported in 2015 that cardiovascular technologists and technicians earned $63,630 as a median yearly salary (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
Prospective employers of cardiac sonographers and EKG technicians prefer that applicants complete certification requirements. Currently, there are two organizations that offer certification. They are the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) and Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). In addition to certification, some states require licensure. However, the requirements for licensure vary from state to state.
Both associate's and bachelor's echocardiography degree programs prepare students to work as technicians or technologists specializing in echocardiography. The rate of growth for these career options is much faster than the national average for all jobs.